The Wings

Here is a little exercise I wrote a few years ago (Sept. 8, 2017), in which “I wrote anything until I found myself writing something.” It ended up in my little flash fiction chapbook, 24 flashes. The story begins as a conversation between me and Ray Bradbury, riffing on his wonderful writing advice, “Jump, and build your wings on the way down,” which, come to think of it, is a lovely way of saying the same thing. Later on, when he interrupts my fairy tale, I confront my mentor with another sweet Bradbury quote, this one collected in Zen and the Art of Writing: “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.”

He looked out over the horizon and saw vast possibilities. He looked down and saw a vast drop.

“Go ahead,” said the man in the tousled white hair. “Jump, and build your wings on the way down.”

“Can’t,” he whispered.

“Come on, buddy,” said the man, pulling off his horn-rimmed glasses and wiping them carefully. “What did the little elf say – ‘Do or do not. There is no try’? You haven’t even been trying lately, have you?”

“Too much to do,” he muttered. “And who’s listening anyway?”

“Whatcha got to say?” the man challenged. “Not gonna listen to white noise, are they?”

“OK,” he said. “Here goes. Once upon a time –”


“Shut up,” he told the white-haired man. “Once upon a time – oh, now I’ve lost my train of –”

“No, no, you’re right. I’m sorry. Jump.”

So he jumped.

Continue reading “The Wings”

The writers room

He took off his shirt, revealing tattoos scattered across his back in a not-artistic fashion, walked into the water up to his waist, and plunged in. Across the way houses nestled on the side of a hill. Docks and rip rap lined the shore. A pontoon boat waited, moored, ready to be pressed into service on some other sunny day.

His head bobbed as he swam slowly across the river, which was about 200 yards wide at this point. He climbed onto a dock, strode across a deck, slid open a patio door, and stepped inside. A moment later a scream, short and loud, ended as suddenly as it began.

Oh crap, it’s too gentle a day to maintain a horror story. What do I do now?

“The characters in a book live day by day and nothing happens,” said the woman at the table. “There’s no story. They’re bored, there’s nothing to do here, until one day they realize they’re happy having no stories to endure.”

One of the men across from her looked up. “That’s it?”

“Hey,” she said. “Seinfeld did a show about nothing and milked the concept for nine years. Why not do a show with no story?”

“Excuse me,” said the little man taking notes at the corner of the table.

“You have to have a story!” insisted the man across from the woman.

“Says who? Stories are overrated,” said the woman across from the man.

“Excuse me,” the little man tried again.

“Stories are the building block of all we do! You have to have a story!”

“Take your stories and shove —“

“EXCUSE ME!” The little voice was so powerful it hushed the room. Everyone looked at the man with the notepad. “Thank you.”

He gathered himself up and assumed his most dignified pose, which, to his credit, had more than a splash of dignity.

“Now then,” said the little man, “Who screamed?”

Waking dinosaurs

The microphone and the audio control panel sit on the credenza, waiting, gathering dust. He was going to do wondrous things with that equipment someday, tell stories and sing songs and create aural marvels to share with the world.

He listens to the sounds of the house — the washing machine and refrigerator doing their things — and suddenly puts a finger to his wrist.

He feels for a few seconds.

“Yep, I still have a pulse.”

He takes a couple of deep breaths.

“It’s true! I’m still breathing.”

He remembers where the power switch is, and he flips it. Lights twinkle here and there across the control panel.

He drapes the guitar strap over his shoulder, adjusts the microphone, and clicks the “record” button.

“One, two, one two three four,” he murmurs.

Walk with me

The dog walked over and sat down next to the easy chair, looking up with the sad puppy-dog eyes that dogs have mastered since the beginning of time.

“I’m bored,” her eyes seemed to say. “There’s nothing to do here. Is this all there is to life?”

“You could read a book,” he said with a smile, mimicking what his mother used to say. “You could go outside and play if you promise not to dig up holes and eat plants that make you throw up.”

At this the dog took a few steps, circled three times and curled up on the floor, either sulking or drifting off to sleep, or both.

“This does seem to be all there is to life sometimes, doesn’t it, Luv?” he said to the dog. “We work for our food and shelter, we keep them and ourselves fit and clean, we pretty up the place a bit, and we entertain ourselves with books and music and TV.” He thought about this for a little while. “It’s not a bad life. We have enough to get by, if not too much. But you don’t want to just ‘get by,’ do you?

“You want to run through fields and chase the ball for me, race the rabbits through the woods, and step outside the boundaries and see what adventures await out there. I do know how you feel, and I can assure you there is life galore to be had outside these walls and even outside these three lovely acres.”

He sat and reflected about some of the life he had led out there, some of it high adventure indeed, some of it happy, some of it very sad.

“Come on, girl,” he said to the dog, who jumped right up because she was only pretending to sleep for his sake. “Let’s go for a walk.”

I would like to say that walk changed everything, that he and the dog lived happily ever after. He did see how much she enjoyed sniffing here way along the field and the street, marveling at everything as if seeing it for the first time — and come to think of it, we are seeing everything for the first time moment by moment, day by day, aren’t we? We might change our attitude about life if we saw it all like a dog on a walk.

But for the most part, it was a walk like any other, on a day like any sunny summer day, and in the end it was not memorable, except in the sense that sunny summer days pile up and create an impression that walking along with a dog on a sunny summer day is a pleasant experience that bears repeating, and years from now on a cold winter night, he will think back and remember the summers, and the night won’t feel quite so cold.

Bunny’s close call

There was a rabbit who lived in a thicket by the side of the road. He loved Ms. Carol’s flowers, but she did not return the love.

She liked her flowers just fine the way they were, you see, but the rabbit loved to nibble on them because they were delicious.

One day, the rabbit was munching away when Ms. Carol walked out on her porch carrying a BB gun.

“OK, varmint, that’s all the flowers you’re going to eat in one lifetime.” She took aim and fired.

Fortunately for the rabbit, she didn’t aim quite perfectly, and the BB only skipped a pile of mulch into the rabbit’s face. This was alarming enough, however, and the rabbit jumped into the air and raced away as only rabbits can race, never to return.

A few days later, Ms. Carol’s puppy looked into the empty yard and mournfully back at her.

“I miss the rabbit,” the puppy whined.

“Don’t you start,” she replied. The flowers were pleased, though, and lived happily ever after, or at least for the rest of the bright sunny summer.

Trouble in Utopia

Futuristic City © Mik3812345 |

In the far-off future year of 2022, in a gleaming city of light, the council met to review its latest scientific goals.

“We have conquered our demons and learned to live in peace,” The Leader said smugly. “The worst of our fearful diseases have been eradicated or at least arrested. Our explorers have established outposts on Mars, Venus, and the moons of Jupiter. What’s next?”

Suddenly a motley crew burst into the chambers and trained weapons on the wise old men.

“What’s the meaning of this?” a council member sputtered.

“While you have been busy making the world a better place, you’ve neglected the underbelly of society as always,” said the motley crew’s ringleader. “You’ve stopped rattling sabers at people we don’t know and have no quarrel with, and for that I thank you kindly. And it’s very nice that my kids won’t die from the disease that killed my mother. It’s also good to know I can leave this orb and move to another planet. But I don’t want to leave, and there are people still suffering here.”

“Suffering? You’ve just pointed out that no one is at war, we need fear no disease, and opportunities abound on several worlds,” The Leader smirked. “Would that we all suffer the like.”

“This world is not quite as peaceful as you claim. You didn’t conquer our demons, you outlawed them,” the ringleader countered. “WHEN HATE IS OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE HATE. And, oh, we outlaws have much pent up.”

For the next generation to discover

“This aging stuff is fascinating,” the aging man said to his companion. “It’s like I’m slowly melting. Everything is falling apart or congealing into a tub of goo, and my mind sees it all happening and is powerless to change the inevitable.”

“You could exercise, lose weight, wrap your aching joints, take an aspirin,” his companion suggested.

“The inevitable would still be inevitable.”

“Of course. But you could delay it, give yourself some extra years to work with.”

“There’s that,” he admitted, sipping his coffee. Rather than set the cup down, he cradled it against his chest, using his prodigious belly as a shelf, feeling the warmth against his fingers. “I want for it to all have meant something, you know? I want to have inspired someone or been a good example. I suppose I could inspire by being a bad example — ‘Don’t be this guy, children’ — but wouldn’t it be better to fill others’ souls with hope and desire and a drive to greatness?”

“How do you know that hasn’t already happened?” replied the companion.

“Wouldn’t I know?”

“Maybe, maybe not. Maybe you’ve written something like It’s A Wonderful Life and no one will find it until 30 years from now, you know, maybe that thing you wrote way back when will resonate with the next generation.”

“I see what you mean. I’m always digging through old stuff looking for that hidden gem no one has noticed, so I can lift it up and say, ‘Look here, isn’t this fine? Look at this, listen to that.’ And I love when I’ve been saying that for years and suddenly people have finally seen and heard.”

“There you have it,” assured the friend. “It’s not for you to fully know what you’ve accomplished, maybe. Maybe someone like you, who searches for the hidden gems, will stumble across your stumbling 50 years from now and think, ‘Well, look here, isn’t this fine? I need to share this.’”

“I do like to share …”